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Balance of Terror: From Detroit City to Ghazi Khan
First published in Empire Burlesque earlier today, 29 December 2009
You want to stop the "radicalization" of young Muslims? It's simple: stop killing innocent Muslims in wars of domination all over the world. Stop running "covert ops" in every nation of the world – murders, kidnappings, corruption and deception that make a howling mockery of the very "civilized values" these wars and ops purport to defend.
A lone man on an airliner makes a badly botched attempt to ignite what appears to be some kind of hastily cobbled-together device that might or might not have caused some kind of unspecified but apparently non-crippling damage to the plane. The plane lands safely; no one is killed.
Yet the reverberations from this half-baked enterprise quickly roiled the entire world. Within hours, a whole range of new, even more intrusive and draconian security procedures were imposed on travelers across the globe. Governments hastened to launch "security reviews," and promise "tough new measures" not only to thwart terrorists but to root out nests of agitators and "radicalizers" clinging to the soft underbelly of our all-too-tolerant, too-nice-for-its-own-good Western world.
Perhaps most significantly, the non-igniting of the homemade device has "rejuvenated [the] debate ... over the proper balance between security and privacy," the New York Times informs us -- while quoting several "experts" who let us know just which way this "balance" is now going to tilt. These "experts" include Bush retreads like ex-Homeland Security commissar Michael Chertoff, who now dabbles profitably in the "risk management and security consulting" industry -- yet another of our great and good for whom every act of terror (real or imagined, successful or unsuccessful) means boffo box office.
The sudden insertion of Chertoff into the story gives us another example of a grim, enduring truth: the construction of "conventional wisdom" among our media and political elites is always driven, in large part or in whole, by raw, brutal self-interest. The new CW now being assembled before our eyes is a "rejuvenation" of one of the ruling tropes of the 21st century: "Liberty bad, security good."
Here is another story in the news: in an isolated rural province in Afghanistan, 10 people were killed in a raid by American-led forces. The Afghan government, installed and sustained in power by the United States, said the victims were all civilians -- including eight schoolboys.
But there was no international outcry about this incident; it barely garnered a few mentions in the global press. And even these were quickly shunted aside after a NATO official denied the claims of the Afghan government, and affirmed that all those killed in the raid were evil-doers. As the NYT reports:
Local officials on the scene in Kunar Province said otherwise. They said 10 civilians had been killed. They said eight of the dead were children:
But the NATO official said the Afghans were lying. We will never know the whole truth, of course, for the story will ultimately be controlled by the very force that carried out the attack: the American-led military occupation.
But what an instructive contrast. In one story, an attack which did not happen and which killed no one shakes the entire world. In another story, ten human beings, including eight children, were slaughtered in a sneak attack by night -- and the world can scarcely be bothered to notice.
What is the chief difference between the two? It's simple: the first story lines the pockets and increases the power of imperial elites. Thus it is important, monumental, emotion-ridden; it calls for immediate action. The second story, if it were pursued and publicized with equal vigor, might threaten, in some small way, the profits and power of imperial elites. Thus it is unimportant, run-of-the-mill, a humdrum case of cranky primitives making the usual wild charges against the defenders of civilization. Were children murdered by American forces way the hell over in the village of Ghazi Khan? Maybe, maybe not. Who the hell cares?
There is of course another element of the slaughter in Ghazi Khan that has gone largely unremarked -- although it might actually be quite important, and even have a bearing on cases like the failed attempt at something-or-other on the plane to Detroit.
You can find this intriguing element buried near the bottom the NYT story:
"Carried out by Special Forces..." Why does that ring a bell? Oh yes, it recalls a story that ran just two days ago in the same newspaper: Elite U.S. Force Expanding Hunt in Afghanistan.
The uncorroborated story of these great successes is told entirely by unnamed American officials involved in the operations -- yet another case of the NYT's innovative journalistic philosophy, as we noted here the other day: "Always let an anonymous source confirm his or her own claims -- as long as that anonymous source is a government or military official."
The Times notes that it is "not surprising" to see these secret raiders "playing such an important role in the fight." After all, Barack Obama's hand-picked warlord for Afghanistan is Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the long-time "dirty war" commander who ran death squads in both Iraq and Afghanistan for five years before Obama placed him in control of the Af-Pak legions.
As the Times notes -- or rather, tries rather wanly to imply -- the slaughterfest at Ghazi Khan has all the earmarks of one of McChrystal's old death squad ops. A house is targeted -- for what reason, based on what "intelligence" (or denunciation by a local enemy or paid informant), we never know -- and everyone in it and around it is blasted to kingdom come. Then, no matter how many bodies of how many dead children and women are produced, the U.S. military claims that only nasty supervillians -- imminently worthy of "extrajudicial assassination" by sneak attack -- were killed.
Want to see a clearer picture of how it's done? Here's an excerpt from a report in December 2006:
(For more on how McChrystal and others ran the dirty war in Iraq, see "Ulster on the Euphrates." For more background on the American way of terror in general, see "A Furnace Seal'd," and "Red in Tooth and Claw.")
What is the connection between these incidents -- in Ishaqi, in Ghazi Khan, and in countless other towns and villages across America's Terror War fronts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, etc.? You can find it in the first paragraph of the excerpt above -- "the end result is clear: a multitude of grieving, angry Iraqis further embittered against the American occupation."
A little tweaking will fit that passage to cover the entire Terror War, in which thousands upon thousands of innocent people have been killed, engendering an ever-renewing cycle of rage and despair -- a potent and fertile combination for engendering the kind of "radicalization" that allegedly drove the alleged attacker on the Detroit plane.
You want to stop the "radicalization" of young Muslims? It's simple: stop killing innocent Muslims in wars of domination all over the world. Stop running "covert ops" in every nation of the world (as Obama's "special envoy" Richard Holbrooke admitted last week) -- murders, kidnappings, corruption and deception that make a howling mockery of the very "civilized values" these wars and ops purport to defend.
But this will not happen. Because our elites do not want it to happen. They are not protecting values; they are "projecting dominance." And so these oh-so-profitable incidents and insurgencies will go on and on and on.
Chris Floyd has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years, working in the United States, Great Britain and Russia for various newspapers, magazines, the U.S. government and Oxford University. Floyd co-founded the blog Empire Burlesque, and is also chief editor of Atlantic Free Press. He can be reached at email@example.com.
This column is republished here with the permission of the author.
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This story was published in the Baltimore Chronicle on December 29, 2009.
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